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6 monumental retail problems your people can solve


Retailers face tough challenges in today’s world of changingconsumer habits, onmi-channel pressure and tight margins.

But some in the retail sector might be under-estimating a keyasset that can help them tackle these challenges - their own employees.

Store associates deal with customers every day, and they probablyunderstand the business challenges better than anyone does.

If they get the right training and support, they can be a powerfulweapon in the fight to stay competitive and profitable.

Here are just some of the ways your people hold the key to solvingretail’s biggest problems:

1. Profit loss and shrinkage

The problem: In 2015, the Global Retail Theft Barometer reported that retail shrinkage was running at almost 1.5% globally, amounting to $120 billion. In the UK, the cost to business in 2016 was £660 million, according to the Retail Crime Survey conducted by the British Retail Consortium. The top cause, at 66% (£438 million), is customer theft. Employee theft is second. Another factor in the UK is the slowing down in sales in some retail sectors.

How staff are key: Employees are the number one tool in preventing loss but they need help in knowing the tell-tale signs and in how to respond if they suspect someone is stealing.  

How employers can support them: Ongoing training can provide a culture of loss prevention and lead to behaviour change within an organisation. Use short snippets of daily reinforcement learning to keep the issue top of mind for your staff every day. Developing a positive staff attitude is also important.

2. Disjointed customer experience

The problem: Three out of four customers list a bad customer experience as the main reason they are turned off a brand, according to leading CRM company, Salesforce. An inconsistent, disjointed offering across the brand channels, from online and mobile apps to high street stores, is a key factor behind the dissatisfaction and lack of conversion.

How staff are key: Knowledgeable staff with answers to hand and a wider understanding of how all the channels connect to form ‘a whole journey’ is essential for a seamless customer journey. 

How employers can support them: Provide staff with the knowledge they need ‘on demand’. Continuous learning reinforcement, with answers available via devices will become the norm as retailers see how employee knowledge is vital in keeping customers. 

3. Underperformance in omni-channel

The problem: A 2017 survey of 40 leading UK retailers in four sectors and a thousand of their customers found there is a growing chasm between what customers want and what retailers are offering. Less than 50% of retail customers are happy with their online, email and social media experience, while 58% of retailers provide different answers to the same question across multiple channels.

How staff are key: The survey concluded that “fast, high quality communications” and a trained-up staff were needed. Retail staff with this level of quality communications can improve the omni-channel approach. 

How employers can support them: Again, it comes down to empowering staff with knowledge to provide prompt, correct answers and in understanding all channels, not just their own immediate work space. 

4. Decaying customer loyalty

The problem: In this ‘Age of the Customer’, knowledgeable consumers know what they want and they’ll shop around to find it. It’s not just down to products and pricing; experience is often the top factor.

How staff are key: The Harvard Business Review says companies should ‘empower’ their employees to deliver a quality customer service and has produced a 5-step process. 

How employers can support them: Staff require customer engagement skills and ‘Customer First’ values. Consider an interactive video tour of a customer journey, backed up with personalised, adaptable, relevant on-demand knowledge. 

"Continuous learning reinforcement, with answers available via devices, will become the norm as retailers see how employee knowledge is vital in keeping customers."

5. Data loss and cyber breaches

The problem: The British Retail Consortium’s 2016 Retail Crime Survey shows cyber-crime is increasing, accounting for 5% of shrinkage (£36 million). In addition, an estimated £100 million of losses through reported fraud is cyber-enabled. Meanwhile, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office said in August 2017 that the number of retail firms reporting data breaches has doubled in just one year.

How staff are key: According to PwC, some retailers are now instilling a culture where employees “are key in minimising the risk”. 

How employers can support them: The PwC report says that as part of the culture, “organisations are investing in effective training and awareness programs”. Compliance and cyber security training can come in many forms including scenarios and games & gamification.

6. Reduction in spending per transaction

The problem: People are being more cautious about how and where they spend their cash.

How staff are key:  Research tells us that customers spend more money when they receive assistance from engaged staff – sometimes as much as 40% more.  And, if millennials are your target consumers, store associates are even more important.  A new study suggests 66% of millennials find associates “extremely important” to their shopping experience. 

How employers can support them: Provide a bespoke customer engagement skills program as part of a ‘customer first’ culture. 

The bottom line is that for retailers to overcome these challenges, they’ll need a workforce that’s knowledgeable and engaged. Investing in people has never been so important for retail.

Get in touch to find out more about tackling any of these six monumental challenges.